Around 10 a.m., we arrived in Mercado Nuevo, in Chetumal, from where all the buses to Belize were leaving. We hoped onto a chicken bus—yes, the chicken bus era has begun. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “chicken buses” are old North American Blue Bird school buses that have a second life as long distance buses in Central America. Travelers nicknamed them “chicken buses” because locals who head to the market usually carry their animals on board, including chickens.
We took a seat with our backpacks and got off the bus twenty minutes later to exit Mexico. A stamp later, we climbed back on board and repeated the process the enter Belize. Formalities were very straightforward and we got a seven-day stamp—that’s all we need for now. Bye Mexico, we will back towards the end of the trip!
As soon as we exited the zona libre, the bus sped up. All the windows were wide open and the wind was crazy: it was like riding a convertible for two hours. After a few minutes, I gave up on trying to hold my hair back and simply put on a pair of sunglasses to avoid being blinded by the dust.
Instead of heading to Belize City as we had originally planned, we decided to stop in Orange Walk, a two-hour bus ride from the Mexican border. We found a hotel easily and rushed to the bank to get some Belize dollars. By the way, gotta love Scotia Bank: they are everywhere in Central America and Mexico and as a customer, I don’t pay service fees to withdraw money abroad. There was no power in town until two o’clock so no food until then either but fortunately the panaderia had some bread.
Orange Walk definitely has a Central America feel. It’s hot, very hot, the streets aren’t exactly paved and it’s chaotic yet welcoming. Dogs are barking and chicken wake us up early in the morning. Car alarms go on day and night and no one cares. Above all, the population mix is surprising: lots of Chinese, Black Caribbean, Mayas and Mennonites.